Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Alleged $.250 Million Fraud - EFCC Probes PDP Senatorial Candidate

Abuja — A senatorial candidate for Cross River North senatorial zone, Prof. Ben Ayade, is under investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over alleged swindling of a Korean company of N38.7 million ($.250 million).

This came as the President-General of Goodluck/Sambo Youth Organisation, Dr. Asu Yakubu, in a statement yesterday, warned of a protest at the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, secretariat in Abuja, if the party fielded Ayade as candidate for the senatorial zone in April.

Deadline for submission of candidates' names to Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is January 31, 2011.

Though the spokesman to EFCC, Mr. Femi Babafemi, did not pick his calls at press time to confirm the receipt of a petition to that effect, a source at the office said it was served the petition.

"A petition before the EFCC in the name of the Korean firm, JM international, signed by one Mr. Oluwafemi Assin, attached an online correspondence, between the senatorial aspirant and president of the Korean firm, Mr. J.S. Lee, where the latter sought a balance of $250,000 paid to the Firm by the Global Environmental Consultants Limited on a "Milestone for BTIP".

In a three-page petition before the EFCC, the petitioner alleged: "The document (attached) is a recent business he (Ayade) had with a Korean company. He simply deceived the company to pay in huge amount of Dollars into his account and claimed to have mobilised workers and vessel for an oil-related contract in the creeks that never existed."

The petitioner, therefore, advised INEC to "investigate the business discreetly with the Korean company and find out the truth".

In his reaction, Dr. Yakubu said "Now that we have a president who is not smeared by any indictment, the senatorial ambition of Prof. Ayade must be stopped."

"As President-General of Youths for Goodluck/Sambo campaign, we cannot sit and watch some people ruin our politics and our political party.

"We, as a group, are embarking on a mission to stop these cases of fraudulent people winning elections to represent Nigerians in different parts of the country. We cannot allow people of ill-gotten wealth. People who are criminals to go to the Senate.

"In the event where Ayade's candidacy is not withdrawn, we will not hesitate to go to INEC, PDP secretariat and the National Assembly to protest."

The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Jega, must show that he is a man of integrity, by prosecuting all electoral offences, as stipulated in section 91(9) and (11) of the Electoral Act, 2011.

"The implication there is that, if the PDP refuses or continues to play hanky-panky on the case of Mr. Ayade and others, the opposition may take the senatorial district and we will lose another very important zone to the opposition," he said.

The senatorial candidacy of Ayade is bedeviled by alleged twin evils: Allegations that he donated N20 million to the campaign Fund of Cross River governor, Liyel Imoke, in breach of section 91(9) and (11) of the Electoral Act, 2011 and the allegations that he is involved in an economic fraud involving as foreign firm.

Recall that Prof. Attahiru Jega, the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, last week, vowed to prosecute Prof. Ben Ayade and other politicians for electoral offences.

Press Secretary to the Chairman of INEC, Mr. Kayode Idowu, in a mobile phone interview with Vanguard last Thursday, said "INEC will prosecute all electoral offenders including politicians who have breached the Electoral Act".

INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, had a few days ago in an AIT programme, buttressed the commission's readiness to "prosecute anybody who is involved in electoral offences."

The President General of the Goodluck/Sambo Youth Organisation, Dr. Yakubu said a copy of a petition he wrote on January 18, 2011, to the Acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, stating why the party must substitute Prof. Ayade, was served on the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, at the National Assembly, after he, Jega had a session with lawmakers on the hitches in the ongoing voter registration.

"Copies of the petition have been sent to INEC, EFCC, ICPC and the Inspector-General of Police, State Security Services (SSS) for necessary action," Yakubu stated.

"By virtue of the Electoral Act, 2010 or Amended Act, 2011, INEC had been empowered to investigate and prosecute offenders of the Electoral Act, 2010, or Amended Act, 2011 on matters relating to organising election committed by individuals and political parties," the petition stated.

He added that "The Electoral Act, 2010 or Amended Act 2011 had to be strictly followed to prevent political fraudsters from hijacking democracy and electoral process from frustrating our civil responsibility of ensuring effective transition in the democratic exercise in line with the Rule of Law as propounded by the PDP led Government.

"We herein urge you as a matter of urgency to use your exalted office to follow the Rule of Law and implement section 91(9) and (11) of the New Electoral Act, 2010 or Amended Act 2011, in view of the donation of N20 million by Ben Ayade "Professor" to His Excellency Senaator Liyel Imoke, the Governor of Cross River State for his re-election campaign. Once the donor is sanctioned other dubious and fraudulent politicians will learn a lesson and act in accordance with the Electoral Act, 2010".

The senatorial candidate who seeks to represent Cross River North, was reported to have donated about N20 million to the campaign of Cross River State Governor Mr. Liyel Imoke, in breach of section 91(9) and 91 (11) of the Electoral Act, 2010.

Section 91(9) of the Electoral Act, as amended, states that: "An individual or party shall not donate more than N1,000,000 to any aspirant or candidate".

Section 91(11), adds that: "An individual who knowingly acts in contravention of subsection (9) shall on conviction, be liable to a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of 9 months or both".

Though the Governor of Cross River State was reported to have rejected the donation, the act by the Senator is still seen to have violated those provisions of the Electoral Law.

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